Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says today’s meeting with the CEOs of five of Canada’s largest supermarket chains is aimed at stabilizing prices.
“Our government is going to do everything in our power to ensure that prices stabilize,” he said while addressing Monday’s meeting. “This meeting today is part of that effort.”
Most CEOs who attended the meeting declined to comment Monday morning. Michael Medline, president and CEO of Empire Company Ltd. and Sobeys Inc., briefly said he was looking forward to the meeting.
Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne sent invitations Thursday afternoon to the heads of Loblaw, Sobeys, Metro, Costco and Walmart asking them to come to Ottawa in person to meet with him and Freeland.
The invitation came after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a series of affordability measures last week to address rising costs of living and inflation.
Trudeau said supermarket chains have until Thanksgiving to share their plans to stabilize their prices. If they don’t, he said, Ottawa will take action.
“And let me be very clear,” Trudeau said Thursday. “If his plan does not provide real relief… then we will take further action and we will not rule out anything, including fiscal measures.
“It’s not right that our largest grocery stores are making record profits while Canadians struggle to put food on the table.”
More competition needed, report says
A parliamentary committee investigating high food prices said in March that if Canada’s Competition Bureau finds that grocery giants are profiting excessively from food inflation, Ottawa should consider hitting the companies with a tax on extraordinary profits.
The Competition Bureau concluded in June that Canada’s grocery business lacks sufficient competition and is dominated by three national giants. He called on the government to encourage new market entrants to lower prices.
After spending months examining Canada’s grocery sector, the bureau concluded that it is primarily controlled by three domestic companies (Loblaw, Metro and Empire, which owns Sobeys), along with foreign giants Walmart and Costco.
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The government said it plans to change the Competition Law to give the office more power to take action. The legislative changes would include allowing the bureau to “mandate the production of information to conduct complete and effective market research,” according to a government news release.
The statement said the office would also have the authority to take action against “collaboration that stifles competition and consumer choice, in particular situations where large grocers prevent smaller competitors from establishing nearby operations.”